It is in the nature of the situation where a specific group finds itself at the bottom of the socio-economic barrel, that there will be treachery in interpersonal relationships within that group. We usually use the reality of the treachery amongst our people to increase the negativity of our assessment of our situation. But it is not because we are inherently wicked or inferior that we are treacherous: it is because our existence is so marginalized that the self-preservation instinct makes the incidence of treachery higher. The fault lies not in ourselves, but in the harshness of our oppression, that we appear more flawed than our oppressors.
There were members of our group who made personal and family progress by becoming loyal and valuable to the colonial masters in British Honduras. In a colonial situation, such opportunities only exist for a minority, who then form somewhat of an elite. If such opportunities were available for the broad masses of the people, then the socio-economic situation of the masses would not be one of colonialism: it would be a condition of liberation.
Consider the interpersonal relations on a slave ship. Our ancestors were chained as tight as canned sardines in the dark hold of a sailing ship for the two, three months it took to cross the Atlantic Ocean from West Africa to America. Our ancestors would be expectorating, vomiting, urinating, and defecating on each other, and they would be in a chronic state of hunger and thirst, not to mention claustrophobia. The captain and crew of the slave ship, in a position of absolute power over their human cargo, would be able to tempt individual slaves with offers of more food, more water, more sunshine, a little freedom from the grinding of the iron shackles, whatever … Most individual slaves who yielded to any temptation would rationalize their “selfishness,” and it is not easy to blame them.
The situation was hardly as bad during colonialism, so it is easier to criticize those natives who became the colonial masters’ administrators. Still, given the reality of the oppression, men make excuses for cutting better deals for their personal selves. One important excuse is, I am doing this for my wife and children. Another important excuse is, I deserve this because I am stronger and/or smarter than my peers.
In September of 1964, about 12 or so of us who had begun Sixth Form in January of that year, went over to the two “new” Sixth Form buildings on the eastern side of the St. John’s College campus. There, we met 30 or 35 new students, comprising the co-educational class of the much larger and more ambitious SJC Sixth Form.
The vast majority of all these students went on to become very successful in their individual lives. They became doctors, lawyers, engineers, chemists, accountants, business people, general managers, and so on. To the best of my knowledge, only one of those students became a revolutionary, and only one other of those students later on behaved in solidarity with that student who had become a revolutionary. All the remainder went on with their successful lives.
The most vital foundation beams of nationhood are those links among us which unify us, as opposed to separating us. In colonial days, what education that there was served the purpose of dividing us, because education created an elite class of natives who began to identify more with the colonial masters than with their own people. Because this was the role that education had played historically, Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and Nelson Mandela became the international heroes of revolutionary students in the 1960s, because these were men – two lawyers and a doctor, who had sacrificed their education and put that education at the service of their people and their nation.
The people who were running the schools in colonial days were largely religious missionaries. Education was a gift they were dispensing to us native youth in return for our religious loyalty. Those foreign educators who were lay people did what they did in the expectation that their native students would develop a special affection for the “motherland” whose history and culture they were being taught. The long and short of this was that it was only an exceptional student, under exceptional circumstances, who would choose to defy the motherland and/or religion which had been the source of his/her educational good fortune.
After 31 plus years of paper nationhood, Belizeans are now faced with the challenge of becoming a real nation this year. There are Belizeans who have been enjoying the rewards of their educational success here. What jumps out at you are the multimillionaire lawyers who bank their money abroad and never support roots sports teams and other community initiatives. They, who came from humble origins like the rest of us, have become a dominant elite, and it is clear that most of them now consider that dominance to be an entitlement. Personally, I think not. The rest of us knew ye when … Humble yourself, Belizean man. Humble yourself, Belizean woman.
Power to the people. Power in the struggle.